London, United Kingdom | AFP |
A lawyer for Britain’s government argued Wednesday it was too late to claim damages for 40,000 Kenyans who say they were tortured and abused by colonial officials during a state of emergency in the 1950s.
The case being heard at London’s High Court pitches Britain’s Foreign Office against Kenyans who allege abuse during the 1952-60 Mau Mau rebellion against British rule.
Britain announced in 2013 that it would compensate over 5,000 now elderly Kenyans in a deal worth nearly £20 million (26 million euros, $29 million) following a legal battle which lasted four years.
It also funded a memorial in Nairobi to the at least 10,000 people killed during the state of emergency.
But it did not accept legal liability for what happened and the current action, consisting of 27 test cases, is a separate process of civil litigation involving more claimants.
Outlining the Foreign Office’s case, lawyer Guy Mansfield said all the alleged perpetrators were untraceable or dead, along with the relevant British politicians, civil servants and army generals.
“None of them can explain what happened during the emergency,” he added.
“They too cannot now answer the grave allegations made against them.”
On Monday, Simon Myerson, acting for the claimants, told the court that they had been subjected to “unlawful and unjustifiable conduct”.
“It is bizarre, in 2016, to conceive of servants of the British government castrating men, either cold-bloodedly or in a frenzy of kicking and beating,” he said.
Myerson added there had been “a cover-up on an industrial scale” of what happened.
While the case is expected to stretch into 2017, some of the claimants are expected to give evidence by video link from Nairobi from June 14.